The Fight to Save Cultural Heritage Sites from ISIS

Once precious cultural heritage sites are lost, they are lost forever, so cultural salvation and preservation always marks a happy event, which we often are in dire need of within the bombardment from the impending doom and gloom of the news-cycle. Donors across the world pledged the sum of $75.5 million to a UNESCO-backed alliance in efforts to preserve precious cultural heritage sites facing destruction at the hands of Islamic State militant groups.

French President Francois Hollande spoke at a donor’s conference for the newly-created heritage alliance, held at the esteemed Louvre Museum in Paris. A fitting site to mark a momentous occasion in cultural preservation efforts, as much of Parisian artwork was destroyed at the hands of socialist and communist-based ideology during the Paris Commune of 1871.

During the conference, President Hollande called for more countries to contribute to preservation efforts in order to reach their goal of $100 million in pledges. Numerous cultural sites and artifacts have already fallen victim to the constant onslaught of Islamic State group militant attacks, many of which are publicized. What is not destroyed is often looted and sold on the black market to fund the terrorist group’s operations.

One of the most notable instances was the destruction of the ancient Syrian ruins of Palmyra in 2015, a UNESCO heritage site. The group’s first focus will be Iraq, where precise inventory of all damages needs to be assessed.

France currently leads with the largest pledge of $30 million, followed by Saudi Arabia offering $20 million, and the United Arab Emirates at $15 million. Italy said it will provide an ALIPH task force, which includes military support, and conservation experts. Switzerland has pledged $8 million, and will also provide operational and administrative costs for the establishment of the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. The group of seven will meet next week in Florence, which is a good opportunity to continue to collect donations.